Besides the usual rash of spring planting in garden beds, this is a good time to start a new container garden. Even if you have little or no solid ground to plant, containers will allow you to grow a few herbs with minimum work and maximum pleasure.
So can you just put any ol’ herb or vegetable together in a pot? Not really. Here are the four basic rules for creating a container garden.
Rule 1: Planning a container garden is like planning a dinner party – you want the guests to all get along. An herb that grows big and acts like a bully (lemongrass for example) shouldn’t be planted with a shy little plant that is easily overshadowed (such as garden thyme or pennyroyal).
Rule 2: Group plants (whether herbs or not) by similar water and sunlight needs. Don’t plant water-hungry basil with dry-soil sage. Once plants are tucked into the same container they are “joined at the hip,” so to speak, and will get the same amount of water or light.
Rule 3: Keep the mature size of the herb in mind when selecting a pot. Garden dill or fennel (which can grow to 6 feet) will look downright silly if placed in a 12-inch pot. It’s also likely to starve for lack of root space.
Rule 4: Forget about companion planting. I know it is a popular notion that certain plants grow better if they’re combined with other “compatible plants.” This bit of folklore is based on 16th century garden lore with no real basis in fact. Trust me on this. I have a copy of the original collection and know what it is based on.
Cooking With Herbs Collections
Some of you are growing herbs and other edibles for the first time in years – or for the first time at all. To help you select plants that will go together in the pot and in the kitchen, are are some cooking herb collections:
- Pizza pot – oregano, globe basil, bush tomatos, bell peppers
- Southwestern spicy – chiles (your choice of heat), cilantro, garlic
- Asian stir-fry – lemon grass, Thai basil, ginger
- Salad – applemint, spearmint, thyme, salad burnet, chives, parsley
- Herbal teas – lemon verbena, sage, thyme, cinnamon basil, catnip, lavender, peppermint, lemon balm
Personal Care Collections
Most of us are dealing with far more time at home than we used to have. In honor of this dubious event, I thought I’d conclude with a few suggestion of herb groups based on their medicinal virtue. The list is based on information found in Herbal Remedies in Pots, by Effie Romain and Sue Hawkey.
- Fever and Flu – yarrow, purple coneflower, false indigo, broadleaf plantain
- Irritable Bowels – agrimony, lemon balm, pot marigold, Roman chamomile
- Tension – betony, lavender, lemon balm, Virginian skullcap, German chamomile
- Depression – lavender, lemon balm, St. John’s wort, betony
- Cold Sores – lemon balm, garlic, pot marigold, purple coneflower
- Sleeping Problems – German chamomile, lemon balm, catnip, lavender
- Cuts and Bruises – arnica, yarrow, pot marigold, comfrey